If you read the intro to this series, you know that I associate living in sin with living outside of accountability. I used the lazy train ride as a way to illustrate my chosen powerlessness over my actions. Instead of consciously controlling the decisions of my life, I just went with the flow of things. Now I know that I had a defective personal boundary system.
Boundaries are dividing lines, or limits, that define AND separate some thing from some thing else. In the case of people, boundaries are the walls where you end and another person begins. Sometimes, we think of boundaries as things we say “yes” or “no” to. We will allow certain treatment up until a point. As much as I believed that I was not letting the world push me around, I was not standing firm with any of my gut yes’s or no’s.
There was a time about halfway through college where I finally decided to escape some relationships, one romantic and the others platonic. I had no peace with the people I was spending time with because I was bending over backwards to meet all of their needs and desires without ever considering mine. Honestly, I did not even know that I had needs and desires. At first, it sounds like I had some pretty crappy people around but I was the common denominator in these relationships.
I was not being assertive enough about boundaries in my relationship with my self and therefore could never extend that to my relationships with others. There was no clear distinction about who I was, what I was doing, or how I was set apart from the rest of the world. There were no boundaries! This means many things, including the fact that it was easy for people to cross over into my territory and start fixing their own plots of land.
But I was becoming depressed, anxious, and angry. I mean, hello, there were people in MY land, taking MY crops and pushing me around into small corners of a world that belonged to me. It was not like major abuse that’s what’s so indirect about it. It looked like going to clubs or parties that I did not want to go to, socializing with people I did not want to socialize with, drinking or smoking when I did not want to, cancelling my free days to spend time doing an activity that interested me none, performing romantic duties that I did not enjoy, etc.
I cannot fault them because I never even gave myself the personal reflection time to decide where I stood on all of these things. I never defined the types of people I wanted to meet, nor the events I wanted to attend, nor the things I wanted to consume, nor the proper rules of a romantic relationship. So I did what I do when I am overwhelmed, ISOLATION! I could not take it anymore so the only way I could get back to some peace was push everybody out of my life. This was actually a terrible thing to do because I kicked them out without setting the defining lines of my being.
So, I still had the same issues. No boundaries. No idea where the line was drawn between me and others. Instead of keeping the annoying people in my life, I started joining clubs, going to a new church, taking music lessons, volunteering in multiple research labs, and co-hosting a radio show on campus. With these new people, I often said I was available all the time to help out wherever or whenever they needed me. At the time, I thought this was a good thing because I was no longer doing bad things with bad people in bad environments.
Well, to overcompensate, I became over-involved in the things I thought I wanted to do for myself by myself. I was making better decisions but I was letting people and activities back into my territory again. And the demands got really heavy. The same depression, anxiety, and anger built up inside.
Instead of fixing my limits. I let the weight of over-achievement rest on my shoulders until I collapsed beneath. That’s when I turned back to all the old bad habits, environments, and activities. Sadly, this pattern can be traced over my whole life. I’ve gone from really high highs to low lows over and over again. Because I never knew how to say yes or no properly. I never knew where to draw the line around myself, I just kept switching between letting good activities and bad activities take over my life until it was time to cave.
Online coach, Johnny Berba, puts it this way… “abandoning your true self to keep a relationship going on a false self” is what creates inner turmoil.
This has caused me so much pain and even a few isolated events of abuse. One of my weaknesses is not drawing lines between myself and the world.
Christian YouTuber, Mark Ballenger, hits it right on the nail when he says that having no boundaries can lead to two things: being controlled by the world and being exposed to unnecessary sin. Becoming a Christian, for real and not for fake, was the first time I realized I was allowed to say “yes” to God and “no” to the world. I am working on my boundaries not only with other people and hobbies but with myself. Sometimes we like to make exceptions and lower standards for our own comfort. And what that really does is just weaken your boundary and blur the lines between you and the world/sin.
So here are some things I have found that I struggled with in my boundaries with self:
Not knowing who I was in relation to my friends, peers, and bosses created problems that stressed me out and probably even stressed them out.
The first way that I define myself today is as a child of God. The Bible tells us exactly how a child of God acts and so, to stay in accordance with this identity, I must obey the Word. This one is easy because we have a literal guide to go to and we don’t have to create the morals of our life, they are already established for us. This means I say “yes” to the things that glorify God. And I say “no” to the things that will take me away from God. God is in my territory and I never want to kick Him out.
1 John 2:6
“Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.”
I did not clearly define what I wanted to be involved in. This made it easy to do a bunch of different things that pulled me in separate directions. I was participating in activities that were fun and cool to be a part of but that did not represent my personality. Or, I was attempting to be social through parties because I did not want to seem antisocial. In reality, I was being a liar about what I enjoy.
What are the things that you naturally gravitate towards when nobody is pressuring you? I enjoy learning, reading, writing, and arts/crafts. Now, I work towards including those in my regular routine so that boundary remains defined. If a friend wants to hang out, I suggest doing something along these lines. Also, I politely decline offers to do things that are not interesting to me or that do not align with my faith. God wants us to do the things we enjoy!
“So I decided there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work. Then I realized that these pleasures are from the hand of God.”
Well, time management has always been a problem area for me. This became a huge issue when I tried to do everything for everyone all the time. Hah, I am so glad I do not have God’s job. He’s a busy guy! I had no boundaries about time and gave the world open access to all of my hours. This really limited my connection space with God and myself.
Making sure to get healthy quiet time with God is a key part of sanity. In addition to that, you definitely need some alone time with yourself. This is where you find your true identity and true interests. Once you have established regular routines in peace, you can be more structured in the amount of time you give to the world. I have been limiting my time on my iPhone with the Screen Time feature and it has actually lead me to lower my time spent browsing the virtual world and spend more time on better activities. There are certain days, like Wednesday or Sunday, where I refuse to make plans. (Time is a big area I am working on for 2019 so we can talk about it later.)
“For everything there is a season,
a time for every activity under heaven.“
Clearly, I thought everything was cool. Everything was okay. I let people slide with making really poor decisions about insobriety, sex, friendships and I let people slide with imposing high demands or expectations to the point I’d do their work for them. Because I was not being solid with myself about what I believed to be morally correct, I was opening myself to similar poor decisions. Since I had no standard belief system, I could not guide myself into good behavior and therefore, could not expect it of anyone else. Because I had no idea about power balance in relationships, I was allowing myself to be a work-dog.
When something is right or wrong, you usually know it instinctively. Now that I have turned my life over to God, I have a true idea about what to believe. There are no exceptions to the rules, so if things are clearly unfair or immoral, I have the responsibility to myself to uphold my standing. If I have a strong feeling about something, I have to consult with God to make sure I have sound belief. If my thoughts are running wild, I have to pray and sing worship because I cannot let anxieties overrun my boundaries. If somebody asks my opinion, I will reflect the Bible’s judgments whether the person wants to hear it or not.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.“
There are tons of boundaries that we must erect in order to define who we are in this world. Boundaries help us by protecting us during vulnerable times and also by giving us a foundation to live up to. You cannot expect other people to treat you how you want to be treated if you are not treating yourself how you want to be treated. That’s why boundaries begin with the self. We have to give ourselves space and time, especially prayer with God, to learn about the limits of things we can and cannot accept.
Take responsibility and build yourself up! Do not let the world’s blurry lines injure your being.
In this series, I’d like to talk about the boundaries between the individual and the world, especially the 21st century world. Boundaries in relationships. And boundaries with God. If you have any stories, questions, advice, or ideas about personal boundaries, I’d love to hear about them.